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Gangtok to Lachung, Yumthang and Zero Point Tour

The picturesque beauty of the North Sikkim is what compels tourist from all over the world visit here again and again. If you are looking for an escape from the city life and want to spend few days on the mesmerizing landscape in the vicinity of the Himalayan mountain range, then a tour to Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero point in Sikkim can be the best holiday destination for you. The sight of the pristine beauty of snow draped mountain range and rivers with crystal clear water will invigorate your mind and body. The valleys of Lachung and Yumthang of Sikkim are compared to the valleys of Switzerland by many international travelers and travel authors.

The best destination to start this tour is Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. The tour to Lachung, Yumthang and Zero Point just needs an overnight stay and you can return to Gangtok the next day. If you want to include Lachen also in your trip, then it will require two overnight stays before returning to the Gangtok. After the 66 km of the drive from Gangtok, you will reach a small town named Mangan and then you will cross the Chungthang town which is just 22 km before the Lachung. The way to Lachung is along the river Teesta and your journey will be in the pleasant surroundings as the numerous waterfalls and mountain springs will welcome you on the way.

You can break your journey at the town of Chungthang for a few hours so that you can explore the beautiful locality of this place and the richness of eye-catching nature which makes this a nice tourist spot en route to Lachung. The mesmerizing beauty of the confluence of the rivers Lachung and Lachen Chus is a scene to watch. These rivers finally join the famous Teesta River. There is a sacred stone nearby, also known as Naydo, is having the holy footprints of Guru Padmasambhava. Also, you can visit the Chungthang Monastery, which is surrounded by the stone houses and huge edifices. Inside the monastery, you will find an amazing collection of Buddhist paintings which are very rare to find anywhere else. The picturesque surroundings with hilly waterfalls and dense green cover everywhere will impart you such a scenic view that you would want to visit again and again.

There are two ways split out from the city of Chungthang city – one for the Lachen and one for the Lachung. The Lachen is known as the big pass, whereas Lachung is known as the small pass. If you want to go to Lachung then keep moving on the road to Lachung. Lachung is a small village situated in the lap of the mountain at an altitude of 8610 ft. The distance of this village from Gangtok is around 118 km but it will take around 6 hours drive to reach here from the capital as the road is in hilly terrain which is not smooth like roads in plain terrain. And also being a village road, the condition of the road is not so good. However, most of the tourists stay at this place for the night and move on the next morning to visit the Yumthang Valley and Zero Point and then return to Gangtok. So, they miss the opportunity to explore the Lachung village and the serene beauty of this place.

If you don’t want to miss the chance to submerge in the exquisiteness of Lachung then you should start your journey early in the morning from Gangtok so that you can reach Lachung at around 12 at noon. Now, you will get enough time to drink the nectar of beautiful scenery of Lachung and nearby places. The local residents here, mostly Bhutias, have their own local governing body known as ‘Dzumsa’ to settle most of the social and family disputes. The Lachung Monastery (Gompa) with its amazing wall murals and many ancient statues is a must visit tourist attraction here. The Carpet Weaving Center of Lachung, which is open only on weekdays, can also be visited for the ethnic sight of how village women weaving the most exquisite woolen carpets.

After the Lachung, the next visit is Yumthang Valley, which is about 25 km from Lachung and it takes around 1.5 hours drive to reach there. You should start your journey early in the morning after the overnight stay at Lachung. The Yumthang valley is located at an altitude of 11,800 ft and the meaning of Yumthang Valley is the 'Valley of Flowers'. Upon reaching at the Yumthang Valley, you will find the valley is filled richly with the Rhododendron flower. The miles and miles of stretched Valley, as far as your eyes can see, there is a bed of vibrant multi-colored flowers everywhere in various colors like red, blue, purple, pink, etc. offering an enchanting view which will feel like you are in a dreamland. The Rhododendron flower normally blooms between the months of March and May.

The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is also situated here, which spreads in the area of around 34 sq km and has a collection of more than 38 diverse varieties of the rhododendron flower. This sanctuary keeps an upper hand than the other sanctuaries like Dzongro, Barsey and Zema in the Lachen due to it having the large varieties of this flower in many vibrant colors. Some of the great species of this flower include the Arboretum, Grande, Nivale, the state flower, etc. The International Rhododendron Festival has been organized annually from March to May, when the flowering season is on the peak, by the State forest department of Sikkim. Apart from the mesmerizing view of Yumthang Valley, you will also be bestowed with the captivating views of Teesta River with the backdrop of mountain peaks like such as Pauhunri and Shundu Tsenpa.

The next amazing thing in Yumthang is the hot water Spring. A walk on a small pathway, which exists before the entrance of the Yumthang Valley, will let you cross a small bridge and leads you to this amazing Yumthang Hot Spring. You just have to walk for some distance to reach this hot spring. It is really a matter of great surprise that the warm water coming naturally from the spring in such a cold climate. And also, the water of the spring is rich in sulfur and has medicinal value with amazing healing power. The spring water is being directed to a couple of pools inside a hut so that visitors can take a healing bath here and get refreshed and rejuvenated. If you want to stay longer at Lachung then you can also enjoy the fishing in the two nearby rivers Yumthang Chu and Puniya Chu. You can also visit the Shiva Temple, which is located around 7 km north of the hot spring.Now comes the next destination of the trip- the Zero Point, which is located about 23 km from Yumthang and at an altitude of above 15000 ft. The place is also known as Yume Samdong and it will take around 1.5 hours drive to reach here from Yumthang. The name of this place is Zero Point because this is the place where civilian road ends and civilians are not allowed to drive any further from this point. There is an international border of China at a short distance from the Zero Point and thus civilians are not allowed to go any further. However, the road from Yumthang to Zero Point is quite bad and the journey is tiresome but it is worth traveling for the reward that you will get at the end. The reward was beyond your imagination. The view is just breathtaking – the snow-clad mountain peaks and the convergence of the three rivers turn this place simply into a visual delight. You can get the view of Yaks roaming in the snow and grazing in the small stretch of snow clad grassy land. The place Zero Point remains under the cover of snow most of the year so it is a delight for you to visit here if you are a snow lover tourist. If you want to see and enjoy the snow then it is the best place in Sikkim to visit. You will find Hot Spring here also at the Sebu Chu river. Also, there are few temporary stalls are there at the Zero Point. Local residents of the nearby places run these stalls where you can get snacks like noodles, eggs, Chana Masala, etc. along with the tea, coffee and alcohols.

Note: As the Zero Point is located at the very high altitude, so there is less oxygen in the air and it may cause some trouble in breathing. However, it is not a problem for a healthy person, but the tourists with infants or people with breathing problem should avoid visiting the Zero Point.

How to Reach Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point : The vehicles which are registered with the department of Sikkim Tourism are allowed to take tourist to these places. Furthermore, there is an additional charge for visiting Zero Point. It is better to hire the service of an authorized tour operator of Sikkim. You can take the tour package that includes all the three places in their itinerary. When it comes to finalizing the itinerary, I would suggest to first reach Lachung and then start early in the morning for the Zero Point directly. First, visit Zero Point because of its varying weather condition and in the morning you will get better visibility than in the afternoon. So, first visit Zero Point from the Lachung and then visit the Yumthang Valley and Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary while returning from the Zero Point.

Best time to visit Lachung/Yumthang The best time to visit is considered in the months of April to May as this is the time when the rhododendron flowers are in full bloom and the sight you will get will be truly magnificent. If you want to explore the local traditions and festivals then you should visit during the Losar festival, which is held between February and March. During this festival, the local residents wear their full traditional costumes and are in the mood of eating, drinking and enjoying. Also, you can watch many cultural shows performed by the locals. The mask dance is being performed by the monks at the Lachung monastery in the first week of the December month, which is also a great time to visit and enjoy the monastery festival.

Arranging Permits The tourists need to get the protected area permits (PAP) to visit Lachung/ Yumthang/ Zero Point as these places are nearby the international border of China and thus are under the control of the Indian Army. The permits can be obtained from the Gangtok Tourism Office, District Administrative Center at Mangan, or at Chungthang Sub-Divisional Magistrate’s Office. If you will take the package you’re your tour operator will arrange these permits for you.

What to carry As all these places are in the mountain region and a cold destination, so taking some warm clothes with you will be enough. But while visiting the Zero Point for the snow you must take an overcoat, a pair of gloves and snow boots which you can hire from the Yumthang market. You should carry cash while traveling these areas as there are no ATMs there. Also, carry all the necessary medication with you, especially, medicine for the high altitude sickness.